The Battle In Red Clay Over Charter School of Wilmington

On Wednesday evening, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education will decide on Wilmington Charter School’s charter renewal.  While it is a certainty their charter will be renewed, an even bigger question is on the table. Continue reading

Red Clay Board Member Pokes The Bear With Sam Paoli From CSW!

The Red Clay Board of Education meeting the other night was one for the record books!  The highlight of the meeting was the Charter School of Wilmington renewal discussion.  Dr. Sam Paoli, the President of CSW, got drilled and grilled with a ton of questions about CSW’s demographics and recruitment efforts.

The absolute best part of the conversation was when Jose Matthews, the husband of Mike Matthews, the former President of the Delaware State Education Association, told Paoli the following: Continue reading

Why Stan Lee’s Death Matters

Yesterday, comic book creator extraordinaire Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95.

I met Stan Lee once.  It was at the 1992 San Diego Comic-Con.  He was hanging out with Spider-Man and I got to introduce myself and tell him how much a fan I was.  Something he must have heard millions of times in his long career in comic books.  For many, Stan Lee was Marvel.  But for me, Stan was a creator.  Along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he created characters and storylines that will never be repeated.

The first time I ever heard of Stan Lee was 1977.  I just began collecting comics.  For me, they were an escape.  My favorite was Spider-Man.  Followed by the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and all the rest.  Stan created all of them.  He was the writer who put the words behind the pictures.

The face of Marvel comics was present in everything you see in the Marvel movies.  For me, he was a presence in my education foundation.  You see, I didn’t read many books as a kid.  I read comics.  Tons of them!  How many kids really got into reading because of Stan’s words?  The number is probably higher than any of us can imagine.

Some of us are visual thinkers.  I know I am.  I see pictures in my minds and words form out of them.  A comic book is the same thing but seen in physical form.  Stan took that already existing format and rewrote the rules.  He created characters that will live long past his 95 year-old life.

Stan wasn’t without controversy in his life.  The artist of many of his creations, Jack Kirby, fought long and hard to get his original art back.  It was something that was never fixed by the time he died in 1994.  Steve Ditko, the artist of The Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, had a frosty relationship with Stan.  Stan’s finances at the end were a hot mess as vultures took advantage of him.

I choose to remember the Stan Lee who kept fans guessing for 25 issues on the identity of the Green Goblin.  The guy who created the concept of mutants and tackled issues of discrimination.  The man who said screw it to the Comics Code Authority, the authoritarian censorship association, and showed the very real results of drug use in Amazing Spider-Man #96-98.  The writer who wasn’t afraid to create African-American characters, like the Black Panther.  The creator who turned the team concept into something to be modeled for generations to come in the form of the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men.  Stan even used disabilities as the basis of a character in the form of the blind Daredevil.  For Stan, it wasn’t the costume but the person that was behind the costume.  It was the character that mattered, not the powers.  It was how they used those powers for the common good.  Before Stan, it was the hero first and the person second.

Like I said, my favorite was always Spider-Man.  His Peter Parker was a bullied teenager who never quite fit in.  His tagline of “with great power there must also come great responsibility” showed the inner and constant battle Parker faced on a daily basis.  It is the heart of a hero.  The ironic part is I loathe spiders but Spidey was my favorite.  But I digress.  Spider-Man is the story of every single awkward teenager who just wants to belong and fit in.  I remember buying these paperback reprint editions of Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1-20.  There were three of them.  I think I still have one of them packed away somewhere.  This was the gold of my childhood.  There was also a trade paperback called “Origins of Marvel Comics” which showcased the first appearances and origins of many of Stan’s creations.  These stories were the foundation of Marvel Comics.

Comic books taught me a lot.  The most important was to always try to do the right thing.  Yes, we fail miserably at that concept in all our lives.  None of us are perfect.  But if that is your cornerstone, your life as a human being will be better for it.  Sometimes the right thing comes at great personal sacrifice.  And it hurts.  But you have to keep going, keep plugging along.  That was Stan Lee’s legacy for me.  Rest in peace Stan.  You are joining all the other comic book greats that passed before you and paving the way for those to come.

‘Nuff said.

The Lies Greg Meece Says About Newark Charter School

Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School.  For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools.  There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity.  At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again.  Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading

The Discussion About Racism Is Important But So Is The Tone. Tales From A Red Clay Board Meeting.

Last week, at the Red Clay Board of Education meeting, a huge and heated conversation took place about the lack of diversity at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.  It turned into something ugly and what I would not expect from a sitting board member. Continue reading

What Is The Purpose Of A Delaware Secretary Of Education?

In one of the most interesting pictures I’ve ever received, it made me question why we even have a Delaware Secretary of Education.  On Tuesday, Atnre Alleyne (the former Delaware Department of Education employee, the co-founder of TeenSharp, and the Director of DelawareCAN) posted a Facebook memory from a year ago.  The interesting part is the picture he put with it because that was NOT in the original post at all. Continue reading

Enrollment Count Report for 2017-2018 & Demographic Information For Districts & Charters: The Rise, The Surge, & The Cherry-Picking!

Which districts and charters saw big jumps with student enrollment? Which went down?  What is the state of special education in Delaware?  What key demographic is rising at a fast rate which contributes significantly to the budget woes in our state?  Which charter school, based on their current enrollment, should no longer be considered financially viable and should be shut down?  What is the fastest-growing sub-groups in Delaware?  And which cherry-picking charters continue to not serve certain populations? Continue reading

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee Members Revealed **Special Thanks To The Delaware Way Blog**

The Delaware Way announced the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee membership yesterday.  First off, a very big thank you to the Delaware Way for letting me know about this!  Once again, their first meeting is tonight at Legislative Hall in Dover, beginning at 6pm.  Just go to the House Majority Hearing Room.  Even though the General Assembly is not in session, there is still a security checkpoint when you enter Legislative Hall.  So I would try to get there five minutes before the meeting.  As well, I put in a request to a few members, the Governor, Secretary Godowsky, and others to put this up on the live streaming from the  General Assembly website.  I don’t know if they will be able to honor this request since it won’t be held in either of the two main chambers, but it never hurts to ask!  Without further ado, here is the group and their meeting schedule:

  • Wednesday October 19, 2016
  •  Thursday November 17, 2016
  • Wednesday January 11, 2017
Members of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee:
·         Teri Quinn Gray – President of the State Board of Education
·         Deb Stevens – Delaware State Education Association, Director of Instructional Advocacy
·         Kendall Massett – Executive Director, Delaware Charter School Network
·         Eileen DeGregoriis – President, Delaware English Language Learners Teachers and Advocates; Educator and ESL Coordinator for Smyrna School District
·         Tammy Croce – Executive Director, Delaware Association of School Administrators
·         Rhonda Swenson – President, Lake Forest School Board of Education
·         Tony Allen – Chair, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission
·         Maria Matos – Executive Director and CEO, Latin American Community Center
·         Madeleine Bayard – Co-Chair, Early Childhood Council
·         Representative Kim Williams – Vice-Chair, House Education Committee
·         Senator David Sokola – Chair, Senate Education Committee
·         Leolga Wright – Board Member, Indian River School District; Nanticoke Indian Association
·         Kim Joyce – Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Delaware Technical and Community College
·         Rod Ward – President and CEO, Corporation Service Company
·         Patrick Callihan – Executive Director, Administrative and Development, Tech Impact
·         Stephanie DeWitt – Elementary school educator; Special Education Coordinator, Cape Henlopen School District
·         LaShonda Wooten       – Educator at Shortlidge Elementary School, Red Clay Consolidated School District
·         Janine Clark – Paraprofessional, Red Clay Consolidated School District; Child Advocate
·         Wendee Bull – Educator at Georgetown Middle School, Indian River School District; Groves Adult Education Instructor
·         Genesis Johnson – Parent representative from Wilmington
·         Nancy Labanda – Parent representative from New Castle County
·         Catherine Hunt – Parent representative from Kent County
·         Nelia Dolan – Parent representative from Sussex County
·         Alex Paolano – Educator at Howard High School; 2016-17 Howard High School Teacher of the Year
·         Susan Bunting – Superintendent, Indian River School District
·         Laurisa Schutt – Executive Director, Teach for America; Board Member, Leading Youth Through Empowerment
·         Cheryl Carey – Counselor, Philip C. Showell Elementary, Indian River; 2015-16 Delaware Counselor of the Year
·         Margie Lopez-Waite – Founder, Head of School, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, dual language school
·         Atnre Alleyne – Founder, TeenSHARP; Parent representative, Board of St. Michael’s School and Nursery

That is one big group!  I was very happy to see representation from Delaware’s Native American population.  There are some surprises on here.  I know many of these people but there are a few I don’t.  I see a lot of big players.  Some of these members I am not happy with, AT ALL.  I have to wonder how many of these members will financially benefit from Delaware’s state plan for ESSA.  Because at the end of the day, that is what ESSA is all about.

Teacher Evaluation Bill Unanimously Released While WEIC Bill Tabled In House Education Committee

It was a mixed bag of results at the Delaware House Education Committee.  A teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, was released unanimously from the committee.  But a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission bill, concerning the redistricting of Wilmington students in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, designed to make clear a school board can not raise taxes without a referendum, was not released.  It was immediately tabled after in the chance the bill can get enough votes to be lifted from that designation.  None of the House Republicans on the House Education Committee voted to release the bill, nor did Democrat Reps. Sean Matthews or Deb Heffernan.  While this doesn’t kill the WEIC redistricting plan (the main legislation for this is House Joint Resolution #12), it certainly doesn’t help.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf attended the meeting in support of the bill.

With the teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, this came after years of back and forth conversation between Delaware teachers and the Department of Education.  The bill deals with how Component V, the major sticking point for teachers, is measured in teacher evaluations.  The major part of that section deals with the state assessment scores, currently the Smarter Balanced Assesssment.  This bill would make it so both the administrator and the teacher would have to agree on what to use for this section, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the state assessment.  There are some restrictions with this based on a teacher’s prior rating through the DPAS-II evaluation system.  This wouldn’t kick in if they were rated below effective.  House Bill 399 will go on the House Ready list and awaits a vote by the full House.  If it passes there, it would have to go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released, to a full Senate vote, and ultimately the Governor for signature.  Teachers have been fighting this component for years ever since Senate Bill 51 was signed into law during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson, expressed concern during public comment concerning an administrator still having the final word in an evaluation.  Kristin Dwyer, speaking on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association, was in support of House Bill 399.  One public speaker (I did not catch her name so I apologize) spoke about a lack of diversity on the sub-committee of the DPAS-II Advisory Group that came up with the recommendations.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, spoke on behalf of the Chief State School Officers, spoke in support of the bill.

The slow climb to a House vote for the WEIC bill met with resistance by half the House Education Committee today.  Seven voted yes to release while seven voted no.  For a bill to be released from the committee in the House, it must have a majority.  A lot of the discussion concerned what House Bill 424 means in terms of a school board being able to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Sean Lynn deferred to the House Attorney who said it would not give school boards this right.  That was not enough to sway the half of the committee who voted no on release of the bill.

Over in the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 277 was heard.  This bill would give the Pathways to Prosperity program a permanent steering committee.  Questions were asked to DOE representatives by State Senator Nicole Poore concerning funding for the program.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut $250,000 Governor Markell earmarked to go towards this program.  Michael Watson and Luke Rhine from the Delaware DOE shared the funds for this mostly come from federal Perkins funds.  I gave public comment concerning a lack of parent representation on the proposed committee.  State Senator David Sokola thought that was in there and made it a point to make sure this was corrected.  A comment was made to Sokola’s question about this to the effect of “We can talk about this.”

As well, Senate Bill 278, dealing with the Freedom of Information Act at Delaware universities and proposed to make committees and sub-committees subject to FOIA, was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Drs. Morgan and Galileo from the University of Delaware were in support of the bill as they met with stiff resistance in trying to find out what was even discussed at committee meetings.  They also shared that public comment is not allowed at committee meetings at University of Delaware.  Representatives from University of Delaware and Delaware State University were in opposition of the bill.

With the Senate, the results are not known right away if a bill is released or not.

While not officially on the agenda list yet, House Joint Resolution #12 will most likely be voted on tomorrow in the full House of Representatives.  This could either advance the WEIC redistricting forward or end it.  Senate Bill 277 is already on the agenda for a full Senate vote tomorrow as well.

Updated, 8:09pm: House Joint Resolution #12 is NOT on the House Agenda for tomorrow…

Big Changes At Family Foundations Academy: Moore & Brewington Terminated With Cause, Board Members Resign

At the Family Foundations Academy Board meeting last night, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, previously suspended with leave, were terminated by the board.  This ends their long tenure with the school amidst allegations of financial impropriety and mismanagement.

Two other board members, Byron Brooks and Gregory Smith resigned.  Out of the original board, only Monnica May and Rayne Fletcher remain.  There were five new additions to the board: Jocelyn Stewart, Faculty member Jason Casper, and three Eastside Charter Board members are coming over to the FFA board- Charlie McDowell, Thomas Humphrey and Charles Tolliver.  Sadly, I was not given any consideration in my bid for a board seat.  I think I’ll be okay.

With the new board, there is much more diversity.  Previously, the board had been all mostly all male African-Americans, but now there are four Caucasian and three African-American members with two of them being female and five male.  Dr. Lamont Browne from Eastside Charter will be supervising the situation at Family Foundations for the foreseeable future.

The big question will be if these changes are enough for the Delaware Department of Education, who will decide on the embattled school’s charter renewal this Thursday, January 15th, at the State Board of Education meeting.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will determine if the school will remain open after the end of this school year.